The ex-Steve McQueen
1914 Indian Model F Board-Track Racing Motorcycle
Engine no. 41F092
There being no purpose-built motorcycle racetracks in the sport's pioneering years, the first competitive events were held on existing velodromes built for cycle racing. Indian's co-founders George M Hendee and Carl Oscar Hedstrom had both been successful racing cyclists in their day and so were well aware of the valuable publicity to be gained from racetrack successes. Indeed, Hedstrom's interest in motorcycles had been kindled when he built a motorised pacer for use on cycle racing tracks, and Hendee's favourable impressions of this machine had brought the two men together. Indian was soon profiting from its products' competition successes, to such an extent that the firm was overwhelmed with orders and had to turn for assistance to the Aurora Automatic Machinery Company, of Aurora, Illinois, which from October 1902 was contracted to build the Hedstrom-designed engines under license.
At first, Indian motorcycles used in competition were modified road models, and not until 1908 did the Springfield company offer a purpose-built racing motorcycle for sale. The following year Messrs Hedstrom and Hendee opened their own home-town, pine-board motordrome in Springfield, thus providing Indian with its own test track and works rider 'Jake' DeRosier - one of motorcycle sport's first superstars - with a stage to showcase his immense talent.
Lacking a clutch, throttle and brakes, board-track racing motorcycles were push-started and run flat-out until the end of the race when the rider would short the magneto to stall the engine. Although rudimentary, they nevertheless could reach 100mph. Accidents were frequent and injuries often serious, one of the major hazards being splinters picked up from the track's surface.
Based on a production model, this board-track racer is powered by Indian's 4hp, 30.5ci (500cc) engine featuring inlet-over-exhaust valve gear. It is fitted with a clutch, though this appears to be inoperative. The frame is Indian's conventional loop-type, though with geometry different from that of the roadster's, the fork angle being steeper and the wheelbase shorter. This altered fork angle effectively moves the engine closer to the front wheel, thus improving steering and high-speed stability.
Restored by marque specialist Stephen Wright, this 1914 Indian was once owned by motorcyclist and actor, the late Steve McQueen. The machine was purchased at Bonhams' sale at Carmel, California in May 2010 (Lot 165) and since then has formed part of a private collection.
- Since going to press we have been contacted by Steve Wright who has confirmed that he restored this motorcycle circa 1977/78, at which time it was painted maroon, had foot pegs and black tyres, and was owned by Herbert Webb of Virginia. The Indian later passed to Tony Pinaccio, who owned various other McQueen bikes including a 'Flexi' racing combination in the same colours; hence it may be assumed that Mr Pinaccio had this machine restored/repainted in its current colour scheme (to match his combination) and also removed the foot pegs. The handlebars have been incorrectly positioned (reversed) for many years and the Indian is depicted in that configuration in several books (with the current paint scheme). However, the machine is not a board track racer but a 'half miler'; a type that raced on flat, dirt surfaced tracks of that length rather than the longer, banked board tracks.
The machine is offered with a McQueen Certificate of Authenticity (signed by both Terry and Chad McQueen). The machine was Lot 554 in the actor's 1984 estate auction. The catalogue illustration dates from May 2010.